Peterborough United to push ahead with planning application for new stadium as co-owner warns not moving to the Embankment would set plans back ‘a decade’
A new stadium for the club has been mooted since 2018 when Canadian investors Stewart Thompson and Jason Neale bought a 50 per cent share in the club from Darragh MacAnthony.
In February 2020, the club signed a memorandum of understanding with Peterborough City Council about the project, which included the Embankment as a potential site.
The club have openly stated that the Embankment is their desired location and that they are now just waiting until after the forthcoming local elections to put in the planning application.
Speaking in a recent public Zoom meeting, Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald confirmed that the club’s plans have the support of the majority of the Conservative Group, excluding those on the planning committee, who he had not discussed the issue with so as not to influence their opinions.
Posh Co-owner Stewart Thompson, speaking in the same meeting, said: “From our side on the planning we are good to go. We are just waiting to get through the purdah period and the election.
“We have done a lot of the planning in writing and are ready to go but we just need the right political timing.
“We completed the paperwork to buy our current stadium on March 31 but now is not a good time to be pushing ahead. We are ready to let the new council settle but look forward to being a big part of the new council’s agenda in their first year.”
Posh plan for the stadium to be multi-purpose and capable of holding concerts and other events 250 days a year rather than just football matches.
The long-term vision is to create an entertainment and communities arena, which could include restaurants and educational centres in conjunction with the new ARU Peterborough development on the Embankment.
Cllr Fitzgerald added at the public online meeting: “My view of the Embankment is that I want to make it a destination all year round. I am for a sympathetic redevelopment, so it isn’t just a muddy field most of the year round. A multi-use stadium ticks a lot of boxes for me but that doesn’t mean I want to just concrete over the whole thing.
“I want to see a sympathetic development that incorporates wildlife, biodiversity and improving the riverfront, making it a place for families to come all year round as well as hosting events such as the Beer Festival, let’s make it the jewel of our crown here in Peterborough.
“However, I personally, nor the council, can give a guarantee to anyone that planning permission would be granted. It is the same process for everyone, which will include full public scrutiny.”
Mr Thompson went onto confirm that Posh have other options in terms of the location of the new stadium but that they were pursuing the Embankment because it is much more desirable than the other potential sites, which he said included the Greyhound Stadium area, an area near the East of England arena and north of the Embankment close to the residential areas.
The club has also looked into staying at the current stadium but concluded that spending the amount of money needed for improvements would not make financial sense.
He said: “We spent a lot of time looking to see if the club could stay where we are and it can’t be done. We found that the old lady (Weston Homes Stadium) is old and there’s a lot of things about her that can’t be sustained.
“We’ve looked at [whether we] can we extend into the parking lot? Can we add an extension to the top of the main stand like Liverpool did? It can be done but spending more money than it would cost for a new stadium to fix London Road up to the standards of an adequate 1930s venue is the best we can do.
“The process would not be easy either, there is not the room behind the London Road End to extend backwards, with the Main Stand there is people’s gardens there, and how do we get construction equipment into that area? Nothing is impossible but we need to ask ourselves how much we want to spend.
“Staying close to the city centre is sensible and key. We’ve found the further away you take the heart from the city, the more it is lost.
“Clubs that have taken the decision to move out into the suburbs have rued that decision and we don’t feel we need to be part of that.
“Fans told us moving out of London Road would be put up with but made it crystal clear that moving out of the downtown would bring pitchforks and torches upon us!
“The timing of this is not without thought, the reality of this is that if the election goes forward a different way and the Embankment is determined as green space, we may be thwarted for another decade.
“If we think about going back recalibrating plans, think of all the transportation issues that go with other sites, think about the neighbourhoods that we have to petition to accept us to be there, it could actually put us back a long way.
To listen to the meeting with Stewart Thomspon and Cllr Fitzgerald in full, click here.